Eric Opoku

How Eric Opoku has waited for years before finally receiving recognition

If life was fair, one would have seen Eric Opoku Junior playing for the senior national team, the Black Stars by now.

In fact, the defensive midfielder began his career by turning out for the likes of Corners Babies and the Under 17 team of King Faisal.

It was his displays there that earned him a call up into the juvenile national team, the Black Starlets.

At the 2007 FIFA Under 17 World Cup, he missed Ghana’s opening games against Trinidad and Tobago and Germany, but came off the bench in Ghana’s 2-1 win over Colombia.

He then started for the Black Starlets against Brazil in the second round and after Francis Boadi was sent off, was one of the heroes of the day as Ghana survived a saved penalty to defeat Brazil 1-0.

He kept his place for the quarterfinal win against Peru and the semifinal against Spain, but was suspended for the third place game against Germany.

He then began to turn out for the King Faisal team and did his job in an understated manner; representing the Green and Whites for three seasons.

Indeed, during the 2008-2009 season, Opoku played the full season in a defensive midfield position for King Faisal without receiving a single yellow card and he had played every game too.

When I told him, Opoku admits that he doesn’t even remember chalking such a feat, but that only highlights the modesty of the player.

He then moved to Berekum Chelsea and he proved the kingmaker in the 2009-2010 Premier League race.

On the final match day of that season, Ashanti Gold travelled to face Chelsea in Berekum; needing only a point to win the title.

Meanwhile Aduana Stars was winning its game against Berekum Arsenal in Dormaa and hoping that the Miners would slip up.

David Duncan set up a very defensive Ashanti Gold side and the Miners were only three minutes away from securing a 0-0 draw when Eric Opoku scored for Berekum Chelsea; thus handing Aduana Stars the title.

Opoku tells me with a smile that he is glad to have made up for it now.

“I have denied Ashanti Gold the title before and so I am happy to have won it with them to make up for that day in 2010.”

Meanwhile, despite establishing a reputation for being “Mr Reliable”, he missed the cut for Ghana’s 2009 FIFA Under 20 World Cup squad as well as the Black Satellites squad that took part in the 2011 African Youth Soccer championships and he has not gotten national recognition since.

It is therefore a bit of a paradox that he has been voted the best player for the 2014-2015 season and yet hasn’t received a national call up at senior level.

Indeed, I have had the pleasure of following him closely and he does his job so effectively that he is virtually unnoticed and it is no surprise that his work allowed more heralded players of Ashanti Gold to win the title.

Indeed, I am scandalized that Opoku was not considered for selection into the local Black Stars and his case mirrors that of another supremely gifted defensive midfielder, Seth Opare of Aduana Stars.

Both players have just gone about their duties without fanfare and perhaps that has counted against them because I would have both players in the Local Black Stars any day.

As I was saying, Opoku has been the go to man in every team he has played for and so his team-mates invariably turn to him for help during games to break up play in the team’s favour.

Interestingly enough, he has a very interesting nickname, “Hello Kwaku”.

He tells me that he got that particular name from his grandmother and that moniker has stuck ever since.

In other words, he can be called upon anytime he is needed by his team-mates and you would rarely find anyone with a bad word to say about him.

What makes his story even more interesting and a little bizarre is that his contract with Ashanti Gold has run out and he is currently in negotiations with the club.

He tells me that although he hopes to stay with the Miners, he is targeting a move abroad should contract talks eventually collapse.

Personally I hope he sorts things out so that he stays with Ashanti Gold because the club would definitely need him for next season’s CAF Champions League campaign.

He is without a doubt one of the finest natural holding midfielders in Ghana and I applaud the Premier League Board for recognizing his ability even when Maxwell Konadu overlooked him for the Local Black Stars.

It has been a long hard road to recognition, but Eric Opoku Junior has shown that he is the epitomy of perseverance and persistence and he deserves all the plaudits that come his way.

 

By Christopher Opoku